According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the total 2006 haul for the catering industry reached 1 trillion yuan (about US$132 billion) with a regular 10 percent increase over the last 16 years. The industry has seen a boom of late with over 4 million restaurants in China and a growth rate 10 percent higher than other areas.
Experts point out that Chinese restaurateurs have a wide market in front of them and exciting prospects to tap.
"The retail turnover of the catering industry reached 1034.55 billion yuan in 2006 -- over 140 billion yuan more than 2005 -- representing a 16.4 percent rise." Vice-Director of the China Cuisine Association Yang Liu said. "There is great correlation between the tourism and catering industry. In 2006, gross income from tourism in China stood at 623 billion yuan, 17.9 percent higher than the last year. According to international conventions, income of the catering industry accounts for around one quarter of that of tourism while in return, tourism contributed 120 to 150 billion yuan to the catering industry in 2006."
With restaurants sprouting up all over the place, competition has become fierce. "Take Beijing for example, there are 45, 000 domestic and foreign restaurants with on average, 100 opening and closing down on a daily basis." Counselor of Chinese Cuisine Zhang Weixin said.
Thanks to China's various dietary tradition and willingness to absorb new elements, its culinary etiquette is becoming more refined and beneficial to restaurants.
China covers a vast territory and has many ethnic groups, hence offering a wide variety of Chinese food. Since China's local dishes have their own typical features, Chinese food can be roughly divided into eight regional cuisines, namely, Sichuan, Fujian, Zhejiang, Shandong, Guangdong (Cantonese), Jiangsu, Anhui and Hunan, although other sub-categories such as Beijing or Shanghai cuisine are also in existence.
Restaurants from foreign countries are also biting into the Chinese market with fast-food chains such as KFC and McDonald's, with 1200 and 600 stores respectively, making inroads therein. "Learning from our foreign competitors, Goubuli has opened more than 70 chain stores in China and also has outlets in Tokyo, New York and Singapore," said an official from the Tianjin Goubuli Company, manufacturers of a popular Chinese steamed stuffed bun brand.
After many years competing with foreign restaurants, Chinese outlets are scampering to improve their dining environment and service.
Yang Liu predicted that the total consumption of Chinese restaurant industry would see a 17 percent leap to reach 1.2 trillion yuan this year and 2 trillion yuan by 2010, or the equivalent of 1500 yuan per person per year.
(China.org.cn by Li Xiaohua July 4, 2007)